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Latam Brief: Protests in Bolivia after opposition leader arrested (January 5, 2022)

 Latin America Daily Briefing

Bolivian police arrested Luis Camacho, the right-wing governor of opposition stronghold and farming province Santa Cruz, on Dec. 28 on terrorism charges in relation to the 2019 ouster of former president Evo Morales. Human rights groups have criticized Camacho’s pretrial detention. The case has “thrown a spotlight on how both the country’s right and left have used a weak judicial system to go after opponents,” reports Reuters.

Protesters demanding Camacho’s release blocked routes out of Santa Cruz, Tuesday. Demonstrators have blocked highways out of the region with tires, branches and stones, leaving long lines of standstill traffic, Reuters.

There have been clashes between security forces and protesters, some of whom have deployed fireworks against police. (Infobae)

The pro-government union association, Central Obrera Boliviana, called a “state of emergency” in response to the protests, and said that truckers and commercial workers have been harassed by demonstrators. (EFE)

More Bolivia

  • A U.S. federal court sentenced former Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo to nearly six years in prison for money laundering, yesterday. He served as interior minister under the interim government of Jeanine Áñez, after Morales’ ouster in 2019. (Deutsche Welle)

Regional Relations

  • Global powers are focused on their own problems, giving Latin American countries “an autonomy to make their own decisions unlike any other moment in recent memory,” writes Mauricio Cárdenas in Americas Quarterly. This comes at a time when the region’s major countries are governed by leftists with common agendas, presenting a unique opportunity, he argues.

  • Latin American leaders converged on Brazil to meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Monday, his first full day in office. They hope Brazil resumes a greater global diplomacy leadership role, as Lula has promised, reports the Associated Press.

  • The United States Embassy in Cuba reopening visa and consular services yesterday, for the first time since a series of health incidents — dubbed Havana Syndrome — among diplomatic staff in 2017. (Associated Press)

  • The next few months, before the U.S. campaign season kicks off, offer a brief window of opportunity for U.S. President Joe Biden to move away from his predecessor’s Cuba policy — but both Biden and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel have to be willing to seize the opportunity, argues William LeoGrande in Responsible Statecraft.

  • Biden’s appointment of former Senator Christopher Dodd as Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas, in November, “is a tacit acknowledgement by Biden that his Latin America policy is in disarray,” according to LeoGrande. (Responsible Statecraft)


  • Biden told reporters he would deliver a speech on border security, today, and visit the U.S. southern border before or after a trip to Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit next week. (Washington Post)


  • Thousands of protesters in Peru took to the streets yesterday calling for President Dina Boluarte’s resignation, the release of former president Pedro Castillo, and a new constitution. Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators around the country’s Congress, but there were no clashes reported. Government officials said authorities had “scrupulously complied” with Boluarte’s instructions to use force prudently. (Reuters)


  • Markets reacted negatively to Lula’s first days in office, though assets started to improve by yesterday. Investors are concerned the new administration’s social policies will lead to excessive spending, reports Reuters. (Also Bloomberg.)

  • Former President Jair Bolsonaro is exposed to criminal and electoral probes that could lead to his arrest or prevent him from running for office, now that he has lost the broad protections from prosecution that came with the presidency, reports Reuters. (See Monday’s post.)


  • Chile’s new plan for a constitutional assembly gives the Boric administration a way forward for a new magna carta — albeit a less ambitious one than the draft rejected by voters last year — but also permits the government space to advance on other legislative agenda items, argues Claudia Heiss in NUSO.


  • Many Mexican farmers are anxious to transition to cannabis cultivation, despite frustrating legislative delays in the country’s legalization plan. The legal vacuum risks leaving small farmers out of a potential revolution, reports the Guardian.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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